Managing Stress

Anxiety is a part of life; in fact, studies have shown that 2 out of 5 people worry at least once every day. Life as a university student can include multiple stressors, especially as students transition in and out of the University. If you’re feeling anxious about classes, future career choices, friends and family, or anything else, you’re not the only one, and there are multiple steps you can take to get back on track. 

Identifying Your Anxiety

One of the first steps to addressing anxiety is to identify its source. Are you terrified of spiders or scared of tests? Constantly worried? Afraid of the future?

Everyone’s anxiety is different. If you cannot identify your stressor, the first step is to be aware of the symptoms of your stress and note when they occur. Once you’ve done this, you can begin to address them and the stressful situation itself. We tend to focus our anxiety on the future, or on possibilities that we cannot control or determine in advance. Seeing a counselor or completing a personal inventory about our worries can help us identify those questions or ideas that cause us anxiety. 

Resources and Strategies for Anxiety

Once you’ve determined your stressors, you’ll need to devise a response. For severe and generalized anxiety, visiting UC’s Counseling and Psychological Services is a great first step. You can speak with a professional counselor about your concerns, and they’re right on campus.

For less severe anxiety, to supplement your work with a counselor, or simply during stressful time periods, you may also want to try the proven strategies below to increase your focus, decrease your worry, and help you achieve your best at UC!

Stress and anxiety can distract you from studying and decrease test performance. The practices outlined below have been repeatedly connected to increased focus and emotional satisfaction. If you feel that test and study anxiety is affecting your test performance, make an appointment with an Academic Coach today! Academic Coaches are trained peers who can help you find the resources you need to succeed.

Meditation is easy and free, and there are a variety of meditation types. Anyone can do it; all you need is a few quiet minutes each day. While the effects of meditation may be different for everyone, several studies have shown that meditation can help decrease stress, increase mindfulness, and enhance concentration, so why not give it a try?

You can repeat positive mantras, pray, or even do chants, whatever works for you. The Mayo Clinic even lists some easy meditative practices that anyone can adopt without training or instruction. 

Progressive Muscle Relaxation involves learning to tense and release specific muscles. This allows you to stop focusing on other issues and “check in” with your body. Hopefully, you’ll become better aware of how stress impacts your muscle tenseness or soreness.

If this strategy seems like a good fit, look around online for an auditory guide through muscle relaxation, or simply reference this module from the Center for Clinical Interventions for written instructions on PMR.

Guided Imagery is a type of meditation, but it focuses specifically on concrete images or places that you find relaxing. You can develop your own images on which to focus. Some therapists have developed online resources focusing on beaches, forests, and other locations, but a counselor will be able to provide additional resources or advice as well.

Some students find regular journaling a good source of stress relief. Some people keep a “Gratefulness Journal” to keep them focused on the positive. Others simply write down all of their stresses right before exams or other critical events. Try a few different options to determine what works for you. All you need is a pen, paper, and a little time!

Many meditative exercises will ask you to focus on your breathing because “shallow” or “chest” breathing can become more frequent when you are stressed. This, in turn, can make individuals feel as though they cannot complete a full breath, which can lead to increased anxiety. Instead, focus on breathing through your nose, and feeling the air move into your stomach, so that you feel your abdomen rise and fall with each inhale and exhale. Yoga classes often emphasize Diaphragmatic Breathing, and several mental health researchers and clinicians have created online resources to walk you through such breathing techniques.